University of Melbourne Magazine

From ultrasound to 3D

  • Innovation

    It’s a big jump from the tiny bronzed booties parents once kept as a memento of their new-born child to a three-dimensional model of their baby’s face in the womb, transformed from ultrasound images into an amazing 3D-printed relief sculpture.

    Bindi Raja

    Picture: Chris Hopkins.

    The idea, boosted by a $10,000 CMB Capital “Best Startup Pitch” award, will soon hit the market in partnership with radiology clinics, but Bindi Raja (MEntr 2016) is determined it will lead to something much more important than money.

    Her company – originally called Teenyco, but now changed to Sono-technologies* – is developing new software to help sonographers around the world identify foetal abnormalities often missed in routine 20- week ultrasound examinations.

    Raja’s motivation was strengthened recently with the publication of a major European study of more than 200,000 women, which found that 39 per cent of malformed foetuses were not detected by routine ultrasounds.

    Meanwhile, Sono-technologies’ baby models are in the final stages of development. Raja came up with the idea last year while studying and working part-time as a qualified sonographer doing routine ultrasounds of 20-week-old babies in the womb.

    39 per cent of malformed foetuses were not detected by routine ultrasounds.

    “Converting the ultrasound images to 3D required a specialised program, which we got from Singapore,” she says. “But even after conversion the files needed a refined smoothing process, and that’s what we’re currently focusing on. We are also trialling a range of different 3D printers to create the models, and envisage that parents will be able to choose the type of material and packaging they want.”

    Sono-technologies doesn’t print a model of the entire baby, just the contours of its face, hands or feet, 3D on one side and flat on the other. Raja plans to market the models worldwide after piloting them through Australia’s biggest radiology network.

    “Developing the models will also give me the capacity to start building the software needed to improve foetal abnormality detection,” she says.

    “We only started the company about six months ago, but while testing the 3D models we’ll be able to collate the data needed for the diagnostic product. It’s been a fast and exciting journey, and it definitely had its challenges along the way.

    “Without the Master of Entrepreneurship, I wouldn’t have been able to build the right foundations to build my startup. All this has been possible because of the support of my networks, including my lecturers and classmates from the Wade Institute.”

    *Company name changed from Sonotec to Sono-technologies after 3010 magazine was printed and distributed.